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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 22468
Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats and am happy to discuss any questions you have.
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My cat has been off her food and water 24 hours and has

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My cat has been off her food and water for about 24 hours and has thrown up once. More lethargic than usual. Does she need to be seen right away, or should I see if it passes?

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you today

What did her vomit look like?

Will she take any and keep down any water at all?

Are her gums pink or pale/white? Moist or sticky?

If you press on her belly, does she have any discomfort, tenderness, or tensing?

Could she have eaten something she should not have (ie bones, toys, plants, chemicals, etc)?

Has she had any diarrhea?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She took the syringe of water, bit then threw up.
Her vomit was watery and orange with some chunks.
She looks at her food with interest, but then walks away.
Her gums are pale and sticky.
No signs of discomfort when I press her belly.
I haven't seen signs of diarrhea, but then she mostly goes to the toilet outside. As she does go out frequently, it is possible she could have eaten something that wasn't good for her.
She was just watching the birds like she usually does, so not as lethargic as yesterday.

Oh dear,

First, if her gums are pale, we need to tread with care. This is because if they are paler then normal that can be a sign of anemia or even internal bleeding. So, we need to keep a close eye on this. As well, if she is refusing all food and water, then the clock is ticking for us. Dogs can go off food for a few days and have no issue, but cats are not designed for this. In fact, if we leave her off food too long it could cause secondary liver issues that can make it even harder to get them eating.

Otherwise, if she has vomited, then this tells us that her appetite loss is being triggered by nausea. At her age, considerations for these signs would be a brewing bacterial or viral gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, parasites/protozoa infections, general dietary indiscretions, and ingestion of harmful items (ie toxins, plants, non-edible items). And I have to warn you that if Una is so nauseous that she cannot even hold water down, then that is usually a red flag that they need us to break this nausea cycle with injectable anti-vomiting medication from their vet.

Still, if she hasn't just vomited you could try her on an OTC antacid. In the UK, we are limited on OTC options but you can try her with Calcium carbonate (60-120mg every 12 hours) or Milk of Magnesia (0.2 tsp every 12 hours). Whichever you choose, we’d give this 20 minutes before offering food to allow absorption. Of course, do check with her vet before use if she has any known health issues or is on any medications you didn’t mention. Though again, if you try this and find her nausea too severe to keep it down, then that is usually a red flag that we need her vet to bypass her mouth with injectable anti-vomiting medication.

Once that has had time to absorb and she is steadier on her stomach, you can consider starting her on a light/easily digestible diet. Start with a small volume (a spoonful). Examples you can use are boiled chicken, boiled white fish, , scrambled eggs, or meat baby food (as long as its garlic/onion free). When you offer that spoonful, give her 30 minutes to settle. If she keeps the food down, you can give a bit more and so on. As her stomach stabilizes, you can offer more. The aim of these diets is that they will be better tolerated/absorbed by the compromised gut.

Since dehydration is a risk here, we need to keep an eye on her hydration. To check this and ensure she’s not becoming dehydrated, there are a few things you can test. Further to checking for gum moisture, you will want to make sure her eyes are not looking sunken and that she doesn’t have a "skin tent" when you lift the skin. To see how to check these parameters for dehydration, you can find a good video HERE ( If you are seeing any signs of dehydration already, then that would be our cue to have her seen before this becomes an additional issue for her (especially as it is often dehydration that makes them feel unwell).

Overall, a wide range of agents could trigger the signs Una is showing. It is possible that it is a gut upset but if she won't eat at all, then we need to tread with care. Therefore, in her case, we’d want to start supportive care to settle her stomach. If she cannot keep that or water down, appears dehydrated already, or doesn’t respond to the above within 12-24 hours; then we'd want to get her vet involved. They can assess her hydration, rule out fever, make sure there is nothing in her stomach that shouldn't be there or any sinister viruses present. Depending on their findings, her vet can treat her with injectable anti-vomiting medication, fluids, +/- antibiotics to settle her stomach, and get her back feeling like herself.

Please take care,

Dr. B.


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